June 18, 2023 “Pentecost 3"
Bishop Susan Johnson
ELCIC National Bishop
Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.’
Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax-collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.
These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: ‘Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.
Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus. It’s good to be able to join you in worship today, connected to our siblings in Christ from coast to coast to coast that make up this part of God’s family we call the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.
At the start of today’s Gospel we see Jesus doing what Jesus has proclaimed his mission to be. He is teaching, proclaiming the good news of God’s kingdom, and curing the sick. He has compassion on the people because he sees there are more people in need than he can possibly attend to. So what does he do? He sends out the disciples to do what he has been teaching them.
He gives them power and instructs them to proclaim the good news, Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons. He asks them to go out and because they love God, to love their neighbour.
My friends, we have been working at Living Our Faith together as a church for the past 4 years. We have learned to pray, read scripture, enhanced our devotional life, and now this year has been the year of love. We have been looking at different ways we can love our neighbour.
Why? Because Jesus has called us to be his disciples and to go out and show love to neighbour. Because the harvest is still plentiful – there are so many people who need to hear and experience God’s love. Because the labourers are still few and we are all needed. But mostly because we are so grateful for the love and grace we receive from God and we can’t help but share it with others.
We may not be called to show love in the same way as those original disciples. We have not been given the power to cast out demons or raise from the dead. But we are still called to announce the kindgdom of God and we are still called to reach out in compassion to those in need around us and far away.
Let me give you a couple of examples of what I mean. This coming Tuesday, June 20, is World Refugee Day. This year, the number of refugees and displaced people has crossed 100 million — this number includes refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced people – they are all victims of conflict or persecution or climate change, and nearly half of them are under the age of 18.
On Tuesday we will remember their plight; we remember the injustices they have faced; but we also remember their strength and courage. We remember God’s heart for those forced to flee, and we pray for God to grow our empathy and our commitment to act.
So how can we show compassion to refugees? We can support the work of Canadian Lutheran World relief financially and help them work with the Lutheran World Federation to care for refugees and displaced persons close to places of conflict, and natural disaster.
We can be part of a group to sponsor refugees to come to Canada. We can help provide them with welcome and shelter and support.
We can call our MPs or write to government requesting that Canada be even more supportive to welcoming refugees here and supporting the UNCHR.
On Wednesday of this week, June 21, we will recognize National Indigenous Peoples Day. We will lift up the pride and resilience of Indigenous Peoples, but we will also remember the number of Indigenous communities without potable water. We will remember the growing number of missing and murdered women and girls. We will remember the children left in unmarked graves. We will remember that we have not lived into all the calls for reconciliation from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
How can we show compassion to Indigenous peoples? It by building relationships – going to an Indigenous friendship centre or attending a powwow. It’s by participating in things like the Moosehide Campaign. It‘s by making donations to a women’s shelter. Or by writing to government to honour their promises for safe drinking water and liveable housing.
These are just a few ways of addressing a couple of specific needs. There are so many ways that we can show God’s love by acting as Jesus’ disciples in our communities and around the world. Working for the care of creation. Advocating for better health care in Canada. Volunteering at a local mental health facility. Being part of a feeding program. The list goes on as long as the needs of the community.
We are called and claimed and sent as disciples of Jesus. When Jesus began his public ministry he read from the prophet Isaiah and announced that this day it had become true.
The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim relief to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind. To set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.
Let us pray that our hearts may be full of the compassion of Jesus. Let us pray that we can feel the spirit God within us. Let us dwell in the grace we receive from God. Let us remember that following and serving Jesus is a gift and not an obligation. Let us pray that we may be strengthened to serve by the knowledge of God’s enduring presence with us.